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St. Peter’s Anglican Church celebrates bicentennial

Planners of the 200th anniversary of St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Butler are, from left, the Rt. Rev. David Hicks, rector; Corrie Jones; Ed Wadding; and the Rev. Glenn Crytzer at the church, 218 E. Jefferson St., on Tuesday, June 18. Justin Guido/Special to the Eagle

Butler County was just 24 years old when a group of early Protestant Episcopalian residents of the then-borough of Butler got together at the county courthouse in the interest of building a church to accommodate their denomination.

The Rt. Rev. John H. Hopkins, rector at Trinity Church in Pittsburgh, presided over the meeting, which included the county’s first congressman, John Gilmore, and his wife, according to historical records.

Land at the corner of East Jefferson and North Cliff streets was donated by Judge James Bredin, and the faithful who attended that meeting pledged $1,000. That equals $32,378 in today’s dollars.

Worshippers attended services in the courthouse until a building was completed at the site, and the first service in 1824 at the new St. Peter’s Protestant Episcopal Church was officiated by the Rev. M.P. Bonnell.

The church location remains the same 200 years later, as St. Peter’s Anglican Church, having moved to the Anglican denomination to retain the church’s traditional values.

The original building was used for 70 years until the present structure was built to accommodate the growing congregation.

“Brilliant new stained glass windows were gifted to the church by parish members in the early 1900s, and stained glass windows from the original church were preserved and subsequently installed in the rear of the new church,” according to church historical records.

An instance that will be the topic of a presentation by Butler historian Bill May at St. Peter’s upcoming 200th anniversary celebration Friday, June 28, at the Butler Country Club is the donation of an organ to the church in 1902 by none other than Pittsburgh steel baron and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

By 1950, according to records, 150 families belonged to St. Peter’s, which necessitated modification and renovation of the building and sanctuary, installation of new pews, replacement of old wiring, and construction of the baptistery and children’s chapel in the rear of the sanctuary.

In 1953 and again in 1958, land adjoining the church and houses that were used for church school were acquired. The houses were razed, and in 1962 ground was broken for construction of the present parish building.

The 1970s saw additional improvements, but also heard the final strains of the organ donated by Carnegie.

The parish voted to purchase a new Zimmer pipe organ, which was designed in a collaboration between church member Daryl Kemerer and professionals from the Zimmer company.

A Memorial Garden established in 1989 in front of the parish hall allows those who loved St. Peter’s in life to remain close to their church in death, as the cremains of parishioners and their families can be inurned in the peaceful location.

While the church boasts seating for 200, the Rt. Rev. David Hicks, church rector, said the community of faithful at St. Peter’s today totals more than 90, with about 60 attending services each Sunday.

Ed Wadding, who is on St. Peter’s 200th anniversary committee, said many individuals who were noted for their service to the community were affiliated with the church, as service is one of its highest priorities.

He said the late Rev. Max Smith was a Distinguished Service Award winner in the county and a member of Rotary.

His successor, the late Rev. George McClaren, was heavily involved with the mission of the former Irene Stacey Mental Health Center in Butler, and Jean Purvis, for whom the county’s free medical clinic is named, was a dedicated member of St. Peter’s.

The famous opera singer and teacher, Bill Parker, was a member, as were the grandparents of the actor Ed Norton.

Service to God’s people

The church was the first to offer Alcoholics Anonymous meetings some 85 years ago, making St. Peter’s the first church in Butler to offer AA.

Assisting those fighting addiction continues to be a major focus at the church, as AA meetings are held Monday, Wednesday and Friday; Narcotics Anonymous is held each Wednesday; and Al-Anon is held each Thursday.

“We have some group related to addiction every night but Sunday and Tuesday,” Hicks said.

A major service organization that operates out of the kitchens, offices and other rooms in St. Peter’s basement is Butler Meals on Wheels.

The volunteer, nonprofit organization provides meals to those in Butler who cannot shop or cook for themselves.

Butler Meals on Wheels has operated out of St. Peter’s Anglican Church since the 1970s.

Hicks said the congregation also supports mission efforts in Uganda, including the construction of a women’s maternity clinic there.

The Rev. Glenn Crytzer, director of Christ Anglican Church in New Brighton, Beaver County, grew up attending St. Peter’s.

Crytzer named consistency in worship and ministry in the community as reasons St. Peter’s has lasted so long in Butler.

He recalled attending church as a 3-year-old child and resting his head on his mother’s lap during the worship service.

Crytzer said the altar was against the east wall with red curtains on either side.

“They told me Jesus and God are here, and I assumed I had to go through those curtains to get to Jesus and God,” he said. “In junior choir, I finally got up the nerve to peek behind the curtains, and all I saw was a wall.”

Corrie Jones, a teacher in the Butler Area School District and a lifelong member of St. Peter’s, also has fond memories of growing up in the church.

“Learning from the older members, I think, was the most valuable,” Jones said. “They were so passionate, so you learned it.”

She recalls friendly husband-and-wife teams serving as Sunday school teachers in her youth.

“They would bake with us with an underlying theme or lesson, so you’d remember it,” Jones said.

She named the late Florence and Sam Castillian as treasured members of the church.

“They were probably one of the most stable parts of our church,” Jones said.

Jones said St. Peter’s also supports the Free Meal Ministry in Butler, wherein five churches provide one nightly meal per week to the city’s homeless and needy population, holds clothing drives, supports the Victims Outreach Intervention Center, and supported a Vietnamese family who came to the church in the 1970s.

“The outreach of our church has been fantastic,” she said.

Here are the trumpet organ pipes as will be part of an organ recital at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 29, at St. Peter's Anglican Church, 218 E. Jefferson St. Justin Guido/Special to the Eagle
Anniversary celebrations

The bicentennial year of St. Peter’s Anglican Church will be celebrated at an anniversary reunion dinner Friday, June 28, at the Butler Country Club.

There, May will present historical facts about the church over its 200 years as well as its former organ donated by Andrew Carnegie.

An open house will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 29, and docents will talk about the church and its features.

An organ concert by Kathy Kemerer will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 29. All are welcome to attend.

After the Sunday, June 30, worship service, where former rector, the Rev. Andrew DeFusco, will preach, the church will hold a strawberry festival for those who attended the service.

Wadding is proud to head up the 200th anniversary committee, as his church has had a major impact on Butler and its residents for two centuries.

“It’s remarkable how this church has done what it’s done and continued to grow,” he said.

Planners of the 200th anniversary of St. Peter’s Anglican Church stand June 18 in front of the church on East Jefferson Street. From left are the Rt. Rev. David Hicks, church rector; Ed Wadding; Corrie Jones; and the Rev. Glenn Crytzer. Justin Guido/Special to the Eagle
Planners of the 200th anniversary of St. Peter’s Anglican Church stand June 18 in front of the church on East Jefferson Street. From left are the Rt. Rev. David Hicks, church rector; Ed Wadding; Corrie Jones; and the Rev. Glenn Crytzer. Justin Guido/Special to the Eagle
The Rev. Glenn Crytzer laughs as he talks June 18 about some of the parishioners through the years at St. Peter's Anglican Church in Butler. Ed Wadding is at left. Justin Guido/Special to the Eagle
A cross is silhouetted June 18 in a stained-glass window at St. Peter's Anglican Church, 218 E. Jefferson St. Justin Guido/Special to the Eagle
An old postcard from the early 1900s shows St. Peter's Anglican Church in Butler. Justin Guido/Special to the Eagle
Organist Kathy Kemerer practices Tuesday, June 18, for an organ recital at St. Peter's Anglican Church on Saturday, June 29, at the church, 218 E. Jefferson St. Justin Guido/Special to the Eagle
Organist Kathy Kemerer practices Tuesday, June 18, at St. Peter’s Anglican Church, 218 E. Jefferson St. The church will host an organ recital at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 29, to celebrate its 200th anniversary. Justin Guido/Special to the Eagle

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